Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey – Review

Book Jacket:

In Edwardian Britain, magic is real. And Masters of the Elements control Fire, Water, Air, and Earth…

Mari Prothero has lived all her life with her father, Daffyd, in a tiny fishing village on the coast of Wales. Though Daffyd takes his boat out on the sea regardless of weather, Mari has learned not to fear for his safety, for her father is a Water mage, and always comes home safely with a large catch. Mari knows that in her family, children are expected to marry at eighteen, to an appropriate stranger. However, Mari is a fledgling Water Master with a rebellious nature. She has no intention of agreeing to any arranged marriage. But Mari has yet to learn the truth of the magical heritage that must be protected by these very marriages. For the Protheros are descended from Selkies—magical beings who are able to change from seals to humans—and to continue her line, she must marry a full-blooded Selkie…

You can read an excerpt here.


Honestly, I’m just sitting here trying to figure out what the heck happened to this series.

I’ve been a long-time reader of both Mercedes Lackey and the Elemental Masters series, which is why I’m really, really sad – and kind of angry, actually – with how this series continues to get worse. Things started getting wobbly around book five, but generally there was still enough fun to be had to keep me going – but now, with book eight, a line has been crossed. This story was just not good, and even worse, it turned out to be a criminal waste of two of my favorite characters of this entire series – and I’m left having to seriously question whether or not I’ll keep reading this series.

And the worst of it, the very worst, was that there was so much about this book I wanted to like. When Nan and Sarah showed up in the story, I was downright thrilled. I love the pair of them, with their non-Elemental magic and unusual pets, and I was so happy to spend time with them again that I was perfectly willing to wait – and wait – and wait – for their story to begin. But then the end of the book arrived and I had no choice but to accept that they simply don’t have a story in this book. At all. And frankly that infuriated me. Why bring them along at all, then, if you’re going to give them absolutely nothing to do? Literally, they sit their way through this book – on a train, in parlors, in cottages and on hillsides – and they never once had to exercise either their special talents or their wits. Any problems they had were easily solved by everyone and everything other then their own abilities, and they basically served as window dressing for the entire story.  It was a criminal waste.

But hold on, you say – this is Mari’s story. You can’t be mad at a book for sidelining two of your favorite characters just because they were in someone else’s story. And yes, this book is undoubtedly Mari’s story, and she’s a perfectly fine lass – but here’s the kicker: her story is equally bereft. Her daily life may be described in loving detail, but Mari doesn’t go much of anywhere throughout this book. Yes, of course there was the requisite magical training and blooming romance, but it weirdly seemed to happen mostly off-page, and there was nothing to support it all – no plot, no action, no sense of tension or peril. At most this story had a hint of danger at the beginning, but it was squashed before I became even mildly concerned. And then the ending arrived, with a big TA-DAH of a magical showdown which was IN NO WAY built towards throughout the entire book, and you end up with an anticlimactic magical battle with stakes that you barely care about. The end. Home from the Sea, the book that treads water and fails to go much of anywhere at all.

But I will say this: Lackey is still undeniably Lackey. The town, the community, the deft touches of politics and religion – it was all lovely. I loved the setting, but it just wasn’t enough to make up for everything else that was missing from this story.

Now when you get to this point with a long-time series, you have to wonder – is it me? Have my tastes simply changed over the years? To answer that question, I picked up The Serpent’s Shadow again – and I thoroughly enjoying re-reading it, so I don’t believe my tastes have changed so very much. I also recently had a long bookish discussion with my sister, who it turns out entirely shares my sentiments about this series’ slow, inexorable slide towards disappointment, so it’s definitely not just me either. What is it, then? I have to wonder, is this a series the publisher just isn’t invested in anymore? Are they happy to toss them out, no matter what state they’re in, knowing Lackey’s established fan-base will read anything she produces? Or did Lackey change editors somewhere along the line? Or did this series simply fall victim to Lackey’s unbelievably packed writing schedule? Whatever the cause, my sister wondered aloud and I have to agree – where on EARTH is the editor in all this? Why isn’t she or he holding the line? We all know what Lackey’s capable of, and yet these books keep getting progressively worse – and there’s just no excuse for it. I have to call foul on this play, I just don’t know where to throw the flag.

So, yes, I’m frustrated, and sad, and angry even at having to watch this series continue to erode – and I do have to call this the worst book of this series to date. So for the love of all Lackey fans, will someone please FIX THIS. This series and this author both deserve far better than this.

Byrt Grade: B-

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Tor.com says:

But while the book feels confidently written, it also sometimes feels rushed, or paint-by-numbers. Home From The Sea isn’t quite good enough at being the kind of book it is. It’s not especially fun. Barring a handful of good moments, it’s not very emotionally involving. It’s readable and pleasant, but it should be better, and perhaps if more time were spent on it, it could be. I remember really liking Lackey’s work when I was younger, but now I find I can’t tell whether earlier books worked harder, or whether I just expected less at that age.

Snarky Writer says:

Anyone who reads my reviews knows I’m a Mercedes Lackey freak. Her books helped get me through adolescence and they’re still comfort-reads now. I love almost everything she’s written, and will defend her themes and characters to the death. I didn’t love this. Home from the Sea may be the weakest Lackey-only (not counting co-written books) work I’ve read to date, and that’s including the Collegium Chronicles novels that I’ve fussed about (and am sincerely hoping the last one improves on)…There’s no story here.